Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!


I can't believe another year has gone by… We began 2013 in Mysore last year, and it is here that we end the year again.  It's like coming home to yourself and discovering that indeed you have been changed by the course of time after all.  Personally, I've always found my time in India to somehow highlight the areas in which I've grown, and also make painfully obvious all areas that I still need to work on.

The New Moon at the start of this New Year brings with it an excellent time to reflect and reconnect to your purpose.  The New Moon symbolizes 'new beginnings' and so it is an opportunity to set an intention or goal, or even just take a glance at where you've been, how far you've come, and look ahead to where you are going.  How auspicious that it all happens as we pass from 2013 to 2014!

Some of you know our tradition of coming up with 2 words at the beginning of the New Year. One word reflects your feelings or thoughts about the year past and the other word reflects your intentions for the year to come.  These are Not two words that you should sit around and contemplate, they are simply the first words that come into your head when you think about 2013 & 2014.  We invite you to join us in this fun little game we started now a full decade ago!

So, maybe you're wondering what we've been up to for the last month here in Mysore…
Well, we've been going deeper into our practices, which is spiritually and mentally a wonderful experience, but physically we're feeling a lot of the "sweet pain" that Guruji would talk about.  Some old openings are 're-opening', as we delve deeper into the process of purification that always goes hand-in-hand with practice in Mysore. I'm not sure there are words that can describe the metaphysical process that goes on through the practice here in this place, but it is awe-inspiring.  I am both humbled and grateful to be a witness to it.

On a purely mundane level, we tried to see if Jediah would take to preschool with the other kids who are here, but after 3 failed attempts and his many angry statements like: "I will not go to school" we decided it was better not to traumatize him with a debauched "Indian preschool" experience, and so we have a fairly proud "preschool drop-out" to contend with, and that pretty much keeps us literally running around all day long.

On a typical day, we have a sitter who comes to our house at 4am, so we can leave before Jediah wakes up and has a massive melt-down that we're leaving, potentially waking our neighbours, and so if all goes well, we can peacefully leave for practice. Afterwards I come home and Jeff continues to assist Sharath for another 2.5 hours.  After that we're pretty much occupied with trying to keep our little man distracted and busy.  Breakfast, coconuts, parks, pools, more parks, walks, climbing, running, more coconuts, hopefully a late lunch in there somewhere or dinner,  a bucket bath, and finally bed.  Something like that.  I'm pretty sure Jeff and I can tell you all the best parks near Gokulum at this point.  Occasionally we get to chanting, and some days we might even get to study some Yoga Texts or have a nap - if our little man is napping, which seems to happen once or twice a week at this point!

Health wise we were all doing much better, that is until Jediah got an eye infection, and I got a lung infection, and both Jeff and I went down with a fever.  Hopefully we'll all be back to our "New" healthy selves by the end of the week!

That's my little New Year update.  Just wanted to stay in touch and keep you connected with where we're at and how we're doing over here in India.

Wishing you all the best in 2014! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Back in the Arms of Mother India

OK - So I realize I'm horrible at writing this blog, considering the last entry was almost a year ago!
It's not that I don't have great intentions, it's just that we are so busy when living and teaching in Canada I honestly can barely find time to sleep, let alone write something intelligent or even remotely worth reading!

Now that we have returned to our home away from home, Mysore India, I am feeling the start of an indescribable release into a deep inner space where my heart and mind can once again come into synchronicity with each other.  I have only had three days of practice at the Shala with Sharath, but even in those three practices I feel that all the effort, energy, time, and expense of getting here is worth it.  Each breath, every vinyasa, I could feel an inner strength gathering and growing once again, the pain in my body starting to subsiding, my mind relaxing and moving inward while my spirit softens. 

However, any trip to India rarely comes without many other accompanying difficulties.  As you probably know, Jeff and I are here with our almost 3 year old son, Jediah.

We spent our first two weeks in Goa, at the beautiful Purple Valley Retreat Centre teaching a retreat. The centre itself is lovely, the staff there are incredible, and the students who came were all a delight.

We couldn't have imagined a better entry into India.  I am always amazed at the beauty and openness from most of the local Indian people.  There is something so honest about their attitudes and interactions.  It is such a gift.

That said, it was a bit of a rocky start in other ways, as both Jeff and our little Jediah have been struggling with tormenting health issues since our arrival.  Jeff had a terrible case of bronchitis, and Jediah has been plagued with bites and infections, as well as a cough and cold.  Luckily, Mysore has several very good physicians and specialists who live in Gokulum, so we have been able to get some really good care for him here.

However, just when we thought Jediah was on his way to fully restored health, he woke up extra early yesterday, (1:30am) and started vomiting by 4am, which made us quite nervous.  I postponed going to practice until Jeff returned from assisting Sharath in the Shala. Sharath is really understanding with parents and gives them a lot of compassion about coming to practice whenever they can, and understands that with kids, sometimes there are unforeseen circumstances that you have to attend to, which might mean you have to practice earlier or later or even in the afternoon.

Anyway, after a little nap Jediah's spirits were once again high and bright.  He is a real trooper, and always has such a happy and positive attitude, you would never guess he was feeling ill at all.  We are very fortunate he is such a good little traveler, and today he is back to his normal healthy self, minus a few skin rashes we are still treating.

Mysore with a child is a very different place… but it definitely doesn't take away from the magic of the practice here, or the depths you can go within yourself.  It maybe even adds a little bit of magic of a different sort - to see the world through the eyes of a child is an unspeakably beautiful gift, and one that I cherish every moment of!

To sum it all up, despite some of the health difficulties we've been dealing with, after only three days of practice in the Shala here, I am feeling so nourished and happy to be home.  It is such a blessing to have this time to once again dive into the sea of yoga;  and I cannot even guess what discoveries may await to be explored in its depths this time around.  

 Om Tat Sat…


Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Rest of The Day...

So... You might wonder what we do after practice every morning.

Well, obviously a trip to Mysore, India with a small toddler is a little different then being here without a child.

When you are here studying without the householder duties of making sure your child doesn't run into traffic, or eat garbage, or drink the water from the tap...  some students will study Sanskrit, Yoga Sutras, or other sacred texts, learn chanting, and possibly have a long enjoyable breakfast or lunch with friends, and certainly enjoy an afternoon nap (or two)...

During the weekends, many students go and visit famous temple sites, or the near by Tibetan settlement, or stay in Coorg at a coffee plantation for a night or two. 

Practicing in Mysore with a toddler is a little different... There is not much time for resting. 
Naps are almost unheard of, and pretty much from the time we finish practice and get home, we are "on the move" - no time for temples or deep introspective contemplation.   
It's Karma & Bhakti Yoga all wrapped into one little bundle of energy, and so we just keep practicing all day long...

Jediah loves being outside.  So, here are some of the things you can do for fun with a toddler in Mysore... or at least some of the things we've been doing.

One Saturday morning we went to the main Market downtown.  That was so much fun for him.  Very entertaining to see all the food, flowers, colors and different people all around.

Just watch out for the dead rats you might possible find laying in the middle of the market from time to time!  eeks!  No one wants to touch them, so they just get covered over with Newspaper, and so if you're not careful where you are stepping... yup - you might just step on one! 

Another Saturday morning we found ourselves at the Mysore Zoo.  Also a fun place to visit with a child.  You can see the animals really close up, and it is pretty hilarious to see his reactions to all the different animals there.  It's an "old school" Zoo though, so if you have allergies (like I do) then I recommend making sure you have some Benadryl on hand, as there is a lot of dust & hair & animal excrement smell in the air!  

Every night we have Bath Time.  Yes - small people can bath here right inside a bucket! 
Jediah loves it.  He climbs right into the bucket and jumps up & down making a huge splash all over the floor.  Definitely a favorite time of the day for all of us!

Most of the day during the week we are just Monkeying around.  Jediah is jumping on us, running around the house, jumping onto or off of furniture, and almost every day we go to the park so he can run around and climb on everything there. 

Parks in India are mostly wide open spaces with a path around, which suits him just fine, as he can run & play to his heart's content. They can be a lot of fun for a certain type of "adventurous" spirit.

As a parent though you will have to watch out for some serious "death traps" that might be around, like slides that are about 8 feet tall and straight down with a large bump in the middle!  yikes!
Or how about a merry-go-round that only moves backwards, is completely rusted out, and hanging off it's center point.  Fun Times have been had by all at these parks! 
If you're a little more relaxed though, it is super funny, and Jediah loves them - especially the most hazardous play things. 

For the past couple weeks we've been having Sudha come in and help babysit Jediah in the morning, so that we can practice together at the same time.  She is a wonderful help, as are the other baby-sitters we've had here: Ratna and Anita.  He loves playing with her, and they have a great time.  The India people love children so much, and so in many ways it is a real joy to be here with a child, and Jediah loves all the attention.

For lunch we will either cook our own food or have Ratna bring us some of her delicious home cooked food or we will make the trip over to Sandhya's house for an amazing meal.  Sandhya is a dear friend of ours and an amazing woman, whom we've had the good fortune to spend time with both here in India and in Thailand as well!

* * * *

What Mysore Trip would be complete without a few surprise visits and a Special Indian Function?

Earlier this month, we were super happy and surprised to have a wonderful visit from Kimberly "Kiki" Flynn.  A good friend of ours from NY, and many years of practice here in Mysore, who was just passing through for a week.  We took a sweet sweet walk down memory lane with her!

Another surprise visit happened... our friend Isaac Murchie also came to hang out with us for a couple days, passing through on his way to do some research in Chennai.  Lots of laughs, and good times were had by all as we tripled on our little scooter around Gokulam.  What a fantastic couple weeks with some amazing friends that we don't get the opportunity  to see very often!

Certainly, the Surprise "Indian Function" was a wonderful afternoon for us!
We felt so blessed to be included in the celebration of a very special moment last week as we attending our friend's wedding!  We have known Taran for many years from practicing here in Mysore, and this year was a really special one for both us, and her, as she married her best friend and true love.

This was a gorgeous day in every way, and the ceremony was one of the most beautiful and symbolic weddings that I have ever had the good fortune of attending.  What a wonderful way to honor this couple and experience our first Sikh wedding as well!  Taran was stunning - as you can see!

 * * * * *

Another must while in Mysore is a visit to Chamundi Hill to sit and chat with Swamiji.  This was a real highlight for me this trip.  I was left wishing we had another month here so that we could come and visit him a few more times - an enlightening and inspiring human being.


You can always stop at the New & Fancy "Mysore Mall" on the way home as well...  A new thing for us this trip, as it never existed in previous years here.

 *  *  *  * 

We've been enjoying some relaxing days by the pool... well, swimming, splashing, jumping, running, and maybe once in awhile stopping to warm up in a towel and drink some juice.

It has been part of the enjoyment this trip to spend some days with Jediah playing outside in the sun and laughing with friends by the pool.  It is such a great way of getting a little "holiday" while in India... and if you've spent any long periods of time in India, then you will understand and appreciate how much you need a "holiday" from time to time! 

It's our last week here in Mysore (insert sad face here)...  :(

So on Friday night we went out with some good friends, and had a dinner at the Green Hotel.  The Green Hotel is a Heritage Spot here in Mysore, and a beautiful place to watch the sun set and eat some "chats" while drinking "fresh lime soda" with friends.
It was such a fantastic night!  So many laughs & good times.
We'll be missing many of these beautiful faces, but hopefully meeting many of them once again either in Canada or somewhere else around the world sooner rather then later!

Pretty much every day we go and get a fresh coconut from our friend Prasad or his Father Guru at the Coconut stand.  Jediah loves the Young Coconuts, as well as the "Straw Wands",  and he will drink almost a whole one to himself.  What he loves even more is the huge rock pile beside the coconut stand that he gets to climb and jump down while we drink our coconuts! 

There is never a lack of interesting sites to show Jediah even just walking down the neighborhood streets.  We need not go very far... there is always something new and interesting for him to see and learn about!  I think we'll have to find some extra ways to stimulate him when we return to Canada after being here for 2 months!  Unfortunately, we don't get many sacred ox walking around the streets of Victoria.

Well, that is pretty much a little glimpse into what we get up to for the rest of the day in Mysore - after finishing practice at 7am.  

Jediah loves Idly & Dosa - so we always tend to go for Indian Breakfast, which is very inexpensive and delicious!  I think we will be missing the South Indian Breakfast as much as our friends and the practice here, once we return home at the end of the week.

It has been an amazing two months of learning, growth, introspection, recovery, rejuvenation, and intense practice.
This visit back to our roots here in Mysore could not have come at a better time for us personally, and we will be returning home feeling more inspired and energized to keep sharing the wisdom and mystery of this incredible practice of Ashtanga Yoga. 

It is always a bit sad for us to leave Mother India... and she has been both gentle and sweet to us this trip (thankfully!) so it is definitely difficult to say "goodbye".
However, one must at some point return to the place from which they've come, and so we go, and carry India with us in our hearts for another year.

Well, that's all for now... I guess we'll be seeing some of you very soon!

And for other... May You Be Held Safe in the Hand of God Until We Meet Again!  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Conference from Sunday January 13th in Mysore

This week we had a really special conference with Sharath. There were so many good questions and discussion about some really deep philosophical questions. 
 I will do my best to capture some of the highlights here for those of you who are here in spirit rather then in body! 
Although, as you can see, there are A LOT of people here these days!

Conference began with Sharath talking about how spiritual knowledge grows within you when you practice with your focus on the greater aspects of yoga, namely living the yamas and niyamas both on and off your mat.

He quoted a lovely verse in Sanskrit that said something like: when the Sun sets it takes back its rays, the harshness of the sun disappears. So it is with a Yogi who is established in the 3rd limb. The mind will become steady, it becomes wiser within, and all harshness disappears.
He also mentioned that dawn and dusk were very good times for meditation.

Sharath spoke of the Hatha Pradipika and how it emphasizes that without first becoming stable in asana, the other limbs of yoga are difficult to reach.  The asana practice brings stability to both the body and mind. The real yoga is nit what you are seeing on the outside, but what is happening on the inside, how it is transforming you.

"Samatvum Yoga Uycate" - he quotes the Bhagavad Gita, reminding us that true yoga is about being able to keep the mind balanced and steady under every circumstance, good or bad.
This is also Santosha - learning to be happy and content within no matter what the external circumstances are.

He was reminiscent of Guruji in saying that to be born as a human is very special...
We should "Think God, and don't waste time."
He spoke of the 4 stages (ashrams) of life in Indian culture, and how Yoga can happen through every stage. It can begin as a child learning to pray to God, and give thanks for waking up each morning, for food, there are prayers for many things...
Taking time to give thanks and focus on God can help to create more positive energy within you.

We cannot say that there is no God. We feel the energy all around - this Sharath would say is God. When you see this energy in a form, that form becomes God for you. Sometimes we see this energy in others and feel this energy in their presence. Each day when you practice you are feeling God.
Sometimes there is pain, but even in that pain you can feel God.
Sharath says with a laugh, "The pain is a sign that there is something inside waking me up!"

This whole life is full of difficulties and challenges... Try to awaken your inner joy!
Samsara is only outside us, but when we start to become influenced by our circumstances outside, then the Samsara moves inside also.

Yoga is a development that happens within, we can become more aware of it when we pay attention to how the practice is effecting us. We have to be responsible in this world and treat others equally. When we feel a sense of competition then we have forgotten the real essence of yoga.

"No one can own yoga.  You can share your experience, that is all."